Termanology: How It Went Down

posted September 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM CDT | 38 comments

For an emcee who has a single that features him nudging labels for not giving him a chance, Termanology is awfully spoiled. The young, Puerto Rican emcees upcoming debut album, Politics As Usual, seems like anything but its namesake with its line-up of legendary producers and guest emcees: DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek and other heavyweights all contribute some of their best beats, while the likes of Prodigy and Freeway tack on cameo verses.

Yet if anyone deserves the love, its Term: the Lawrence, Massachusetts-bred emcee has the relentless flow, multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and lyrical tenacity that harkens back to the era of rap that he based his album around, and hes humble enough to know his role. In an interview with HipHopDX, Termanology talks about the process behind crafting a back-to-the-basics classic.

HipHopDX: Take me back to what you were thinking when you first heard the beat to Watch How It Go Down.
I was just so happy, because my whole life, Ive always wanted a [DJ] Premier beat. So to get one like that, that was so dark and grimy and shit, I was like, Oh man, this is right up my alley. So when I heard it, it took like a month before I actually wrote the song; I just marinated on the beat. I just knew I had to kill it, so I took my time with it. But that shit was the best feeling ever. It was crazy, because its like 80 bars straight. Theres no hook, its just 80 bars of madnessIve never counted it, but I know its something like that. So I know he was like, Whoa.

He liked my shit before that, he played some songs I had did on the radio and whatnot. But I dont think anyone knew I could really spit like that, so it made me sound real crazy. When it was done, he was like, Yeah man, sounds dope. I could tell he liked it. We ended up doing the remix, and he liked that a lot too. So for him to do the remix, I know he was really pleased with it.

DX: The first line of that song is, I see myself as the holy resurrection of Pun. And thats one of the first songs where Ive actually heard something like that at the beginning of the song, and I wasnt pissed at the rapper for saying it. What made you decide to put it on the line like that offtop? Do you still feel that way?
[Laughs] I just felt like, at the time, that I was the most lyrical cat doing it. Not only that, but the most lyrical Puerto Rican cat. I figured that that was a good way to attack it. Im like, All right, this is my first real single, and its my Premier shit, and this might be the last song I ever do, so I might as well get it off my chest the way I feel. So I was like, I see myself as the holy resurrection of Pun/if I aint that, then you name one/rapper thats lyrical slash Latin, political past rappin/with visuals past Malcolm, and finna go past platinum. Because I feel like theres a lot of other cats thats nice too that are Spanish, but I didnt feel like they all had what I had. Im really confident in myself, and I believe in my sound, and I believe in my vision. I just kind of looked like it was, to me, similar to what Pun was doing. Im not trying to say that Im as good as Pun or better, or any crazy shit like that, but thats how I felt at the moment. I really look up to him. Him and [Fat] Joe [click to read] were pretty much all we had as kids growing up. Those were the Puerto Rican dudes, they spoke for us: our grandfathers, and our uncles, our ancestors, and people from the islands, and shit that was going on from the ghetto Puerto Rican mind. So its ill for me to be the new dude coming out, and a lot of dudes respect me. It feels great.

DX: On another song, So Amazing [click to view] you gave a rundown of different labels and why you should work with them. How many of those places hit you back?
That was sort of just a fun song. I was just trying to be an asshole, be real exaggerated, on some Eminem shit. Ill write the whole Detox in one week. Know what I mean? Fuck it, Ill say it; see what happens. Obviously, Dr. Dre didnt call me to write the Detox.

Ive met with a lot of labels, dog. Ive met with every label almost, and everybody pretty much had the same thing to say. Oh, we like you, youre dope, but were not doing that shit over here. We cant sign you because if youre talking about killing cops and rapping over Premier beats, and we want you to make a corny jingle and work with whoevers the producer of the week. Plus, I think they didnt know what to do with me. Like, What is this guy? Is he white, or Puerto Rican? What the fuck? Nobody looks like me, and nobody raps like me in 2008, so its like, You want to be this fast, lyrical underground rapper looking like that? Thats not going to work buddy. So I started my own label, and Nature Sounds is behind me; they decided to put up their bread, and get shit crackin. So its all good. At the end of the day, it worked out; Im my own boss now.

DX: Whos the first A&R that you want to just stunt on?
Well its a lot of em. I dont really want to say their names, cause its not really their fault that they cant sign me. Some of them, it is their fault, cause theyre fuckin gay, but a lot of them, theres nothing they can do about it.

Ill tell you who the cool cats were. I met with Sean C at Universal, he was mad cool. I was like, Yo, whatd you think of my demo? He said, That aint no demo. Thats some good fucking music. Those are some really good tracks right there. Keep doing your thing, youre going to get signed. Im like, All right, cool. Thanks, man. Some people were really cool like that. But other people were not so cool, and trying to persuade me to do wack shit. Trying to tell [Termanology's manager] Dan Green, Tell him to do this, and do that. Im like, Cmon my nigga, what happened to me just being me?

DX: Back to Primo for a second. Youve got three songs with him now
Seven. [Laughs] Just figured Id throw it out there. But theres three on my album, yeah.

DX: When does it get past being amazed at who he is, and turn into real chemistry with him?
I think Ill never get past it, because he means so much to me as an artist. The beats hes made have been the soundtrack to my life for the past fuckin 10 years. Nothing could ever take that away; even if I moved in with him and he was my roommate, Id still feel like that. Imnot the same as when I met him in 2003, I was starstruck. Now hes more like my brother.

DX: Working in the HeadCourterz Studios, do you feel like that couch and those stairways have a magic to them?
Termanology: HeadCourterz
is definitely a magic place. When you fuckin walk in there, you feel it. Like, Oh, this is it. Im not really with that fancy studio shit. That shit is cool, butI like HeadCourterz, man. That shit is grimy, but its like classy grimy. The booth is the same old booth: the same booth Biggie recorded fuckin Ready To Die, same booth Nas recorded his first album, and Jay-Z [click to read] and shit. Its so much crazy vibe being in that booth, you just feel so ill. Like, I love this booth. I never want to record anywhere else. But thats not possible, cause Premiers a busy dude. So when youre out there, you have to take advantage and that and fuckin smash that track.

DX: It was dope to know that Bun B came in for the video for the single "How We Rock" [click to view] Did you work with a lot of these producers and artists in the studio, or was it e-mail-based?
That particular song, me and Primo hooked it up in HeadCourterz, sent Bun [click to read] the beat, and he knocked it out. Its funny, because the day the day that Primo made the beat was the day that Buns album came out. So I didnt even want to call him that day, because Im like, This guy is going to be so busy. Its the day his album comes out! Youve got to be on MTV or whatever. So I was like, Man. Primos like, Fuck it, lets call him. So we called him, and were like, Weve got this track were working on. Bun was like, Call it How We Rock, it can be about how we get down, on some skill shit. Primos like, Cool. I didnt really have to do much. Even though he wasnt actually in the booth right then and there with us, he was still in the drivers seat.

made the beat on the spot, I watched him make it. All I had to do was write a 16 and an eight [-bar verse], and play my part. Its a good look though that Bun came out and did the video. Hes such a cool dude, hes the realest dude ever. I went and chilled with him in Houston for his birthday party, he invited me out. Me and Statik Selektah [click to read] went out there and kicked it with em, and right then I realized it was for real. A lot of people will be like, Yeah Ill work with you, son, and you cant find em. But Bun was like, Yeah, lets do this. Anytime I called him, he always picked up. Hes just the realest dude in the world, man. Its fun to work with legends like that.

DX: What about other songs? Like ones with Prodigy, Alchemist, Nottz. Did you work with them in the studio?
Me and Pete Rock [click to read] did our shit in the booth. We went to Baseline Studios with Young Guru, and Pete Rock did the hook right there live on the spot. We kicked it and mixed the record together. Lil Fame, thats like my brother. He came over to Dan Greens studio and whatnot, kicked it with me and wrote the verse on the spot. Some of the stuff is on e-mail and some of it is in the lab, but to tell you the truth, I never really felt like I need anybody to be anywhere with me. As long as you kill it, and you play your part and you do the right thing, then its all good, man.

DX: Reks Grey Hairs had a similar line-up, as far as producers and guest shots. Why do you think Massachusetts artists have gravitated toward the '90s sound so much?
Probably because were so close to New York, so our sounds really similar to New York. Were really only four hours away, three hours if you speed. Its that east coast sound, man. People forget Guru [click to read] and Big Shug are from Boston, and theyre Gang Starr. So the Gang Starr sound is a big part of the Boston sound. I think that shit will never go away. Even though the new school dudes coming up change with the times, you have shit like that thats going to stick with the script and stick with the Primo style shit.

DX: Being that this record is themed after so many classics, were you adapting to the times by bringing in so many features? If you look at albums like Ready To Die, Illmatic, or the Gang Starr joints, they dont have as many guests as you had.
I think with the guest thing, it really wasnt a thing I needed. If you listen to Watch How It Go Down and So Amazing, the first two singles I had out there, I was all by myself and just smashing the shit. But it was moreso for the excitement. Like, Alright, cool. I can do a song with Bun B? Or I could not. So Im like, Dog, Ima do that fucking song with Bun B. [Laughs] The Alchemist [click to read] joint was two verses I had that were 12s, so they were short. So Dan Green is like, We could get Prodigy [click to read] on it, so it would be some official Mobb Deep shit. Im like, Aw man, thats the best idea I ever heard. If you can pull that off, it would be great. So that was that. And then the Drugs, Crime and Gorillaz joint, I just hit one verse on it and I knew I wanted two other people on it that were beasts. So I got Freeway [click to read] on Sheek [Louch] [click to read] on that. But out the 13 tracks, its only four with features. The other seven are me by myself, so the bulk is still dolo.

DX: Youre recording this album, and youve got beats from Easy Mo Bee, Buckwild, Alchemisteverybody whos worth getting a beat from, you made it happen. So as youre knocking these songs out, and as these legends start stacking up, whats going through your head?
It just made me feel like you could do anything you want if you put your mind to it. The idea was all mine from the beginning. I always thought that would be an amazing idea for somebody to make a whole album with just the best producer, so why doesnt anybody do it? Why doesnt Nas do it? As a Hip Hop fan, as a little kid, dating back as a little kid to like 95, 96. I was like, Somebody should do an album with Havoc, and Primo, and Pete Rock, and only them. I always thought about that. Whats wrong with these stupid A&Rs, and label niggas? What the fuck? Whats the big deal? Just grab the tracks and put it together. So Im like, You know what? Ima do that shit! And everybodys like, Yeah right. Some people would try to talk me out of it. Dont do that, because theyre going to put you in a box. Theyre going to only look at you as underground. Im like, Underground? Every producer I got is platinum-plus. So whats underground about that? And even then, whats wrong with being underground, if underground is dope?

As I went throughthe first song I did for the whole album was Baby Please Dont Go, so we already had Nottz. The second song was Watch How It Go Down, so then we had Premier. I bumped into Pete Rock, and he recognized me from the Premier song, so I got him. Then I got Buckwild. Little by little, once I had them, Id bring them up to the next cat. Like, I already got this dude. Theyre like, Word? Then Ill definitely be a part of that. All the way up to the last beat I got on the album, which was the Havoc beat, because he was already signed to Nature Sounds. Im like, Word. I accomplished what Im trying to do.

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